Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Free Breakfast at Chick-Fil-A

Participating Chick-Fil-A locations will feature Free Breakfast Wednesdays! This means that every Wednesday in April, you can get a free breakfast entree at Chick-fil-A during regular breakfast hours (usually until 10:30am). Participating locations include: Trexlertown, Berkshire Mall, Quakertown, Lehigh Valley Mall, Schuylkill Mall, Mechanicsburg, and Broadcasting Square. One entree per person, while supplies last. Many Chick-fil-A's offer Kid's Craft Night, or other activities for free, so check your local Chick-fil-A for details!

Cute and Frugal Monogramed Onesie

Emily was very excited to create something special for Clara this afternoon, and cardboard stencils made this project very easy! I found a set of cardboard alphabet and number stencils at Big Lots for just $1. Baby onesies are usually very inexpensive. This one came in a pack of 3 for $7.99 at Target. With just a little fabric paint, we were all set! Lay the onesie on a flat surface and place a piece of cardboard inside it to keep the paint from sticking it together. Lay your stencil on top and use masking tape to secure it to the onesie. Paint your stencil, let dry, and wash according to fabric paint's instructions. Enjoy! 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fabulous and Frugal Paper Lanterns

I have seen lanterns similar to this at the dollar store, and this afternoon Emily and I dressed one of ours up a bit with some tissue paper and glue. The finished lantern will be hanging up in her bedroom. 

To make your own, you will need a paper lantern, some colored tissue paper, white glue, and scissors. Cut out your tissue paper designs, and using a paintbrush, apply a 50-50 mixture of white glue and water to cover the surface of the tissue paper design. Just be sure not to use too much glue, or you could poke a hole in the lantern. A thin layer of glue should work well. Allow to dry, and hang to display!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Top 5 Big Purchases (that are worth the money)

Mark and I are very methodical about large purchases. We plan ahead, research the latest reviews, and patiently wait for things to go on sale. Here are some of the things we have found to be the BEST buys for the money (i.e. big purchases that are really worth it):

1. Digital Camera -- We use the Nikon D40, and purchased an open box model from Amazon's Warehousedeals.com. I use it every day, and with small kids, I love how it takes photos instantly. It is an entry-level SLR camera, which makes it very easy to use. Since it was over $25, we got free shipping!
2. Vacuum -- Our household has two cats. These two cats shed. A lot. When we finally saw a Dyson D14 listed on woot.com, we scooped it up. This had been on our wish list for a long time, and our only regret is that we did not get one sooner. It is an engineering marvel. On woot.com, every purchase has just $5 shipping!
3. Bread Machine -- This was one of those things I thought I would never use, but the cost of bread kept going up and up and I noticed that many of the store-bought breads contained high fructose corn syrup. I had a few gift cards for Macy's and ended up putting them together toward the Cuisinart model. Now we use it all the time for pizza dough, breads, and even soft pretzels. Yum! I just load in the ingredients, select the cycle, and push "start". It does all the work! Plus, I love how the house smells when I am baking bread.
4. High Speed Internet -- This allows Mark to occasionally work from home. When he works from home, we save money on gas and car maintenance. We also get to enjoy lunch together as a family. Priceless.
5. Apple Computer -- I know these seem terribly expensive, but Apple computers are amazingly well-designed. They think of everything. They are easy to use, and virtually virus free. The iLife suite makes it simple to create fabulous videos, photo albums, web pages, music, and so much more.  

What big purchases were you most happy with? I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment and share your stories with us!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Slacker Saturday -- Flying Saucer Frisbees

It's time for another great Slacker Saturday activity, and this one is very simple, super frugal, and lots of fun! Today's activity is... Make your own flying saucer frisbees! To make yours, you will need 2 paper plates stapled together as shown, aluminum foil, and some stickers to decorate. If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you can decorate with glitter glue too, but this is Slacker Saturday so feel free to omit it!

Staple two paper plates together as shown, and invite your child to cover the plates with a sheet of aluminum foil. Your child can decorate their own flying saucer frisbee with stickers, and then go outside and throw them!

Also, the slacker parents out there might enjoy this article from Wondertime detailing the many benefits to lazy parenting. Makes me want to prop my feet up and kick back! Hope you are all enjoying a fabulous weekend!

Friday, March 27, 2009

$5 Friday -- Make Your Own Sidewalk Chalk Paint

Special thanks to Amanda at Kiddio.org for inspiring this week's $5 Friday activity -- make your own sidewalk chalk paint! This is very inexpensive and easy to do. We had tons of fun with this and created a detailed space scene on the asphalt of our driveway. Lots of planets, stars, rockets, and comets!

The colors are quite vivid, and you can sneak in a quick lesson about color mixing and how to measure. Our driveway has a slight slope, so just as we were finishing up, Emily dumped the paint to make this "rainbow".

To make your own homemade sidewalk chalk paint, you will need: 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, 2 tablespoons of water, and 4-5 drops of food coloring. Be sure to add the cornstarch and THEN the water so it mixes up a little easier. Emily really enjoyed making this paint!

"Can't we stay out here forever?"

Here's the breakdown of how we spent our entertainment money today:
1 pound box of cornstarch (store brand) -- $2.25
1 box food coloring (on sale) -- $2.50

Total Spent = $4.75

I should also note that we use food coloring for LOTS of projects, and this only calls for a few drops. Also, I had lots of cornstarch left over, so we will be using that for future projects as well. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Inexpensive Field Guides for Tots

When I took Emily to the book store the other night, we looked for some field guides to add to her backpack for nature hikes, but they were very expensive. I found a great way to make a more child-friendly version. It is simple and easy to make yourself. To make your own bird field guide, you will need cardstock, a binder ring, and some clear contact paper.

Go to whatbird.com and create your own customizable bird field guide. I tried to pick species that we see regularly in our own backyard, and are easy to recognize (robins, blue jays, cardinals, etc). Print out the sheets and laminate with clear contact paper. Punch a hole in the top corner and attach a binder ring. Presto! Fabulous and frugal field guide!

I plan to make more of these for butterflies, wildflowers, plants, etc. -- each on its own binder ring. This one is 3" x 3", the perfect size for little hands. She can easily flip to a page, identify a bird, and use a dry-erase marker to record the sighting. The contact paper will protect it from the elements, and helps it to withstand lots of use. More on Emily's backpack for nature hikes later...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What color was your day?

Do you ever enjoy a "date night" with one of your kids? You know, for some quality one-on-one time away from the rest of the family? Last night it was Emily's one-on-one time with me and I took her to the toy store, the candy store (I let her choose five pieces of candy), and the book store. She has been asking me to take her to the book store for quite some time now. Honestly, she didn't have to twist my arm! We were enjoying our time, me with my cup of tea (Mmmm...tea...), and Emily with her comic book. I was flipping through the pages of the current issue of Wondertime and found this fabulous idea of keeping a journal of the color of your day. When I mentioned it to Emily, she was very excited to get started.

We used small, un-lined, pocket-sized notebooks, and I like to keep a travel set of colored pencils with me for on-the-go inspiration. (More on that later..) We each keep our own notebooks and scribble along side each other at the end of the day. I try to write little notes in the margin of Emily's, if she feels there are details she would like to tell me. The notebooks themselves are very inexpensive. I have seen un-lined pocket notebooks at the dollar store.

What I love about this is how it helps foster a discussion about emotions, and how art can be a powerful medium to express those emotions. Also, the ritual of doing something like this on a regular basis can be great for stress relief. 

Here are some more photos from our "date night"...

She slept well that night.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Free Printable Garden Journal Pages

We have been hard at work on our garden journal. I love working on this with Emily because it is very frugal, it helps connect us with nature, and it keeps her interest for long periods of time. We were successful at tricking the forsythia into blooming a bit early by bringing some branches indoors, and this afternoon we planted more seeds and updated our journal.

Many of you have shown interest in keeping a garden journal as well, so I have uploaded these journal pages I created for you to print out and keep a journal with us! They are free to download and print, and if you link to them please provide a link back to Frugal Family Fun Blog. Thanks so much and happy gardening!

Catalog Wishlist

Photos Drawings

Planning Grid

Seed Starting

Monday, March 23, 2009

Needle Crafts with Kids

I know what you're thinking -- needle crafts and kids cannot possibly go together, but with a few adjustments even the little ones can take a turn at embroidery. Clara had a difficult time sleeping last night and was up several times with teething pain. This afternoon while she was napping I thought I would take a few tips from Amanda Soule's book The Creative Family so that Emily and I could spend some quiet time stitching together.

As a kid, I remember some of my first sewing projects involving plastic canvas, large plastic needles, and yarn. Let's face it, embroidery floss, linen, a blunt tip needle, and a hoop make sewing that much more fun!

We used embroidery hoops which can be purchased at craft stores for around $1-$2, linen (about $3), and embroidery floss (around  25 cents each). Emily used a blunt tipped tapestry needle, which costs $1.59 for a pack of 15 of them. With the help of a needle guide, she could even thread the needle all by herself! A few times I had to remind her to poke through the top if the needle was on top, or the bottom if the needle was on the bottom. 

This kept Emily busy and quiet for a loooooooong time while Clara took her nap this afternoon. She has set aside the hoop for now, but has plans to continue working on it. I love the abstract, freestyle design she came up with.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Top 5 Things to Buy in Bulk

If done properly, buying in bulk can save a substantial amount of money. Check unit prices to make sure you are getting a good deal. Here are some of our family's top picks for stock piling and buying in bulk:
  1. Toilet Paper -- I would say paper goods, but we have replaced paper towels and napkins with cloth instead. Toilet paper is usually a better buy in bulk, and with a good stock pile you will have the added bonus of being prepared for an emergency.
  2. Shampoo -- Check beauty supply stores for prices on shampoo by the gallon. If you are worried that kids will not be able to use such a large bottle, try adding a pump or pour into a smaller bottle as you run out.
  3. Peanut Butter -- This can be significantly less expensive when purchased in bulk, but check unit pricing to make sure. 
  4. Cheese -- American cheese has a very long shelf life, and if you have a big grilled cheese eater in your family buying in bulk is the way to go. For other hard cheeses, buy in large blocks, shred or grate desired amount and then wrap the rest of the block in plastic wrap then aluminum foil before putting back into the fridge.
  5. Honey -- Did you know that honey never spoils? If it crystalizes, simply warm it up a bit to bring it back to life. I have found this to be a better buy when purchased in bulk and never have to worry about running out for using in tea, baking, etc.
Tip -- Studies have shown that people tend to use larger quantities of items when purchased in large containers. Even though you have 4 pounds of peanut butter, try not to use more than you normally would to make a sandwich, or you could be negating your savings.

Has your family tried buying in bulk? I would love to hear about it! Leave a comment and share your ideas with us!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Slacker Saturday -- Star Garland

This intergalactic garland could not be any simpler, and the kids love making them to hang all around the house! This one is hanging up in our dining room now. To make your own star garland you will need string and star-shaped Post-It notes. That's it! Simple, right?

Lay out the string and invite your child to sandwich the string between two sheets of star-shaped Post-It notes (stinky sides facing each other). Press together firmly, and repeat down the length of the string. Hang it up to display and enjoy!

Friday, March 20, 2009

$5 Friday -- (Semi)Homemade Thin Mints and More!

For today's $5 Friday, we made semi-homemade thin mints and took a trip to the local public library. These cookies are so easy to make and taste just like the Girl Scout version -- perfect for when they are not selling cookies and your stash has run out!

To make your own semi-homemade thin mint cookies, you will need 1 bag Hershey's Mint Chocolate Chips, 1 box of Anna's Thin Mint cookies, and a little shortening.

Melt half the bag of mint chocolate chips in a double boiler and add about a teaspoon of shortening.

The cookies are very fragile, so we brushed the chocolate on very gently and placed another cookie on top and brushed on more chocolate. Yummm!

Special thanks to Infant Bibliophile for suggesting The Carrot Seed -- it is Emily's new favorite and she really enjoyed reading this to her little sister.

What a cute story!

Clara listens intently. Later she took a loooooong nap!

Here's a recap of how we spent our $5 of entertainment money today:
Mint Chocolate Chips (bought at Big Lots) -- $2.00
Anna's Thin Chocolate Mint Cookies (also from Big Lots) -- $2.00
Total Spent = $4.00!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Starting a Garden Journal

We have been noticing some signs of Spring around here, and I thought it would be fun to start keeping a garden journal with Emily. Our been sprouts are starting to turn green...

This morning she planted some tomato seeds in an empty egg carton. Kids love to plant seeds, don't they?

We brought some forsythia branches indoors to try to trick them into blooming. They are so close now...

And of course we starting working on the garden journal. Today we worked on the cover and used a seed catalog to make a collage. Emily enjoyed cutting out all the photos and gluing them together.

We are using a plain white binder for the journal (very inexpensive) and I filled it with plain white paper and lots of sheet protectors for leaf-rubbings, paintings, pressed flowers, observational drawings, etc. Lots of fun, and it helps us to stay connected to nature. Now we are very eager to get outside and start planting!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Emily Turns Five!

It happened right before my very eyes. She was four years old one minute... and then... POOF! Five years old the next! We went to a friend's playgroup (Thanks for hosting us, Debbie!) and Emily played her little heart out. Mark came home from work early, and we spent the rest of the daylight hours out in the yard. Emily and Clara enjoyed some snuggling in the sunshine.

After it got dark, we headed over to Friendly's to celebrate. The waiters and waitresses even came over to sing to Emily, which made her grin from ear to ear! Since Monday, Friendy's has been featuring a kid's menu promo between 4-7pm with $1.99-$3.99 kid's meals. The promo ends March 19th. 

Mmmm... birthday ice cream!

I would say she had waaaaay more than $1.99 worth of fun, wouldn't you? 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wishing everyone a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Our day was filled with lots of green, and some of the first signs of Spring. We wore plenty of green...

...and even ate green Jell-O.

Awww... sisterly love!

Spring is almost here!

We enjoyed some frugal fun at the playground. This was Clara's first real trip there!

Do you think she liked it?

Hope you are all enjoying your day. Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day!
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